Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter

Faery Rebels: Spell hunter / R.J. Anderson
New York: Harpercollins, c2009.
329 p.

This middle grade fantasy begins with the premise that there really are fairies at the bottom of the garden; or, since it's told from the perspective of the fairies, that there are humans at the end of the garden! It is set in England and has an English sensibility which works very well with the storyline. The fairies live in an old oak tree -- their community is called the Oakenwyld, and has been isolated from other fairies for as long as they can remember. All the fairies are female, and they do not have any magic; it has been lost sometime in the past. They are ruled by a strict queen and have designated duties to keep the community running. Knife is unusual in that she is extremely curious about humans. When she is of an age to be apprenticed, she ends up training to be the Queen's Hunter, under Thorn, the wonderfully ornery current Hunter. This takes her outside the oak much more than she would have been able to access otherwise, and leads to much of the action that follows. She watches the humans, especially Paul, the college age son who has returned home and whom she thinks must be extremely important as he rides about in a 'throne' while everyone else walks. One day as she is hunting she is injured by a crow -- she literally falls into Paul's lap, he helps her recuperate and a friendship is born. The relationship between Knife and Paul is the impetus for her to raise many questions about the Oakenwyld, and to doggedly search for answers to the problems they have. She has to face the Queen herself to get answers, and through her bravery bring about some hope for the future of the Oakenwyld.

This is a very brief summary of a magical story that contains many wonderful moments. Knife is an amazing character, funny and brave and not too sweet or too obnoxious. Her relationship with Paul is developed nicely, and one element of that relationship that I enjoyed was the fact that they help each other to develop their creativity and that is important to both of them. The community of female fairies is a delight; there are personality conflicts but also alliances and some wonderful creations (like the librarian, who I SO wanted to be!) The fairies, being only female, now reproduce by egg -- when one comes to the end of their 300+ yr. life, she consciously gives up her life to create an egg, from which comes a new fairy. This elaborate routine is clearly explained and is sad and beautiful at the same time. The interrelations between the fairy world and the human world in the past are also of vital importance. All these questions are raised and resolved for the reader alongside Knife's discoveries, which makes for a great reading experience. I really enjoyed the story and the use of traditional motifs, as well as the accomplished writing style. I'm glad to hear that there's to be a sequel -- can't wait to hear more about the Oakenwyld!

Bart's Bookshelf said...
Ooh, I've got Knife in my TBR pile and read good things about it. I'd like to ask, what you thought of the other fairy characters in this book.

I enjoyed the way all of the characters were individuals in this story. Bryony, who becomes Knife, is a strong lead, but there are also other fairies who are quite different from her in personality. Thorn, the Queen's hunter who takes Knife on as an apprentice, is a tough talking, straightforward kind of gal. Wink, Briony's foster mother, is a meek and rather scatter brained individual who is nonetheless eminently loveable. There is even a faery librarian who is quite protective of her books :) Each character fits in to the parameters of the world that's been created but it is not a homogeneous community despite the fact that the Oakenwyld is made up entirely of female faeries.

Kailana said...
Faery Rebels: Have you read any of the other 'popular' fairy books people are reading nowadays? If so, how does this compare? If not, why did you choose this one over the others and did it hold up to that?

I've read a couple of the other fairy books (such as Wondrous Strange) but not all of them. This one differs primarily in its audience; it's aimed at a middle grade market, so doesn't have the sleek, sexy love story approach that many of the teen ones do. I actually preferred the creativity in this one. Why did I choose it? Well, primarily because the author lives in my hometown and came in to the library to give us a review copy and chat about it. But then because it looked so great! And the author is so nice. :)

Dreamybee said...
I like the idea of fairies in the garden, so could you tell us a little more about Faery Rebels? What was the tone of this book-light and entertaining, dark and twisted, etc? I've never read much fairy literature? Fairy-tale-inspired? I'm not really sure what genre this book would fall into, but would you recommend this as an intro to the genre?

This story has a light tone, but with some serious issues (loyalty, bravery, independent thought, responsibility to one's community, etc.) in the plot as well. As mentioned, it is aimed at middle grade readers, so it doesn't have a sense of darkness or sexuality; but it is still dense with ideas and a well developed romantic storyline so that adults will enjoy it as well. (at least this one did!)

Eva said...
One more question!What did you enjoy most about Faery Rebels? There are so many YA faery books right now; did this one stand out?

I loved this one for the characterizations and the use of the traditional idea of fairies as little tiny winged creatures living alongside us. And then the breadth of the world created from that kernel of tradition. The writing was also excellent, smooth and well constructed with no awkwardness.

thedarkinthedark said...
It looks from the page you link to that the cover for Knife is way cooler than the other. Which do you feel portrays the book more accurately and why?

I personally prefer this UK version. I like the title's emphasis on Knife's role. And I think this cover is really magical, placing Knife as a very non-human character in an important element: darkness. Knife's going out in the dark, which is forbidden to the fairies of the Oakenwyld, leads to her connection with Paul. Also, she looks tough here! So I think this cover is really representative. The North American one is quite pretty but I think it makes Knife too pretty somehow.

So that's it for my opinion -- here are a few others:

A nice UK review by Scrap Girl at Serendipity
A teenager's review at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf
Nicola's take at Back to Books
An interview by LisaMay at Look at that Book


  1. This sounds wonderful. A good one to gift to one of my nieces perhaps...

  2. Kate - absolutely! If I had nieces of the right age I'd be buying multiple copies.


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